The Fire Emblem franchise has been around since the NES. It didn’t go worldwide until Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade was released for the Gameboy Advance in the west. The Blazing Blade’s localization was due, in large part, to the inclusion Marth, and Roy, in Super Smash Bros. Melee. This is a perplexing choice because neither are featured in that game. The Fire Emblem franchise received lukewarm sales, and reception, until 2012. Intelligent Systems had made what was considered the series swan-song. If the next game didn’t perform well, they were to cancel the franchise. Fortunately, they put out Fire Emblem: Awakening. The series best selling title until 2019’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
To begin the game you create a custom avatar. The defaults for the avatar leave you as the character “Robin.” One day, on a routine patrol, Ylissean knights Chrom, Lissa, and Frederick find Robin laying in a field. They soon recruit them to their unique taskforce. Chrom’s sister, the exalt of Ylisse, is in possession of the Fire Emblem. The Fire Emblem is a great tool that when completed with all gemstones can unlock the power of ancient dragon Naga. Many villains wish to take the Fire Emblem for themselves. It is the main conflict of the game.
At the beginning of your journey, you’ll encounter a mysterious masked knight going by the name of Marth. This character later reveals themselves to be Lucina, Chrom’s daughter from the future, who has come back in time to stop the resurrection of the evil dragon Grima. Lucina’s arrival continues to shape destiny, or break it, up until your final encounter with Grima.
Fire Emblem is known for being a deep RPG based around strategy. It is up to you to give your troops weapons, armor, and anything else required to win the battle. If Chrom, or Robin, shall fall at any point during a battle, you’re given a game-over. Game-overs don’t do any harm. They simply send you back to the beginning of that chapter. Each unit will move separately, but you can partner units together to create a stronger force of two. This can help create bonds that simply encourage second strikes, or even prevent an ally from getting damaged themselves.
After completing a chapter, a permanent shop opens in the spot where the battle took place. With Awakening being a 3DS game, this all happens on a world map. As you complete more chapters, more shops will open carrying weapons that can get overwhelmingly powerful. Sometimes Risen, the games fodder enemy, challenges will appear over these shops. You can get some pretty great rewards from taking them on. Every once in a while, a paralogue chapter will open up. Paralogue chapters are much longer than regular chapters, and usually reward you with a new unit upon completion.
A huge staple of Fire Emblem is the support level. Units with higher supports for each other will usually do better with each other in battle. Support can be raised by having two units on a team, or having them fight next to each other in battle. As I brought up before, Lucina is the child of Chrom that comes from the future. Chrom will always end up marrying the female unit he has the highest relationship with by a specific point in the story. After all, Lucina needs a mother to exist. By raising a set of supports to S those two units will marry and have a child or two. You will be able to recruit that child after completing a paralogue that introduces you to them. On paper, I think this is a perfectly fine idea. I just didn’t care for it, or purposefully go for a specific kid, in practice.
Awakening features the two difficulty options classic and casual. Casual is recommended for newcomers to the franchise, and classic is the basic difficulty for the Fire Emblem franchise. In classic difficulty, your units will not revive upon death. This is the big difference between the two modes. I personally love the option to not worry about permadeath. It makes things a lot easier to manage with my schedule.
Unfortunately, a big drawback I ran into was the lack of use most units offered. It probably had to do with poor stats, poor handling, or a mix of both, but I ended up using most of my units as fodder in the final act of the game. There were really only four that proved useful in the end. Chrom, Robin, Tharja, and Frederick basically served to rush to the front and take out the commander while regular enemies swarmed the dead meat in the back of the map.
I won’t share an image due to spoilers, but I wanted to bring up another grievance. The final boss just felt like complete luck. I probably spent a solid hour on him alone. My winning strategy was hoping for Tharja and Frederick to get enough critical hits for Chrom to come in and make the final blow.
Awakening is not the poorest RPG I’ve seen on 3DS. I definitely wouldn’t call it the prettiest either. While not in a battle, you mostly see pixel art and hand-drawn character portraits. Most of it looks amazing, but in battle that all changes. In battle and cutscene, you see these real-time 3D models of your units. They look incredibly poor, to say the least.
Awakening does an extremely bad job of taking advantage of what the 3DS does uniquely. All of the action is done on the top screen with either the circle-pad or D-pad. The bottom screen only serves as an insight to more specific information, and what a terrible insight it is. It looks poor, and I had an incredibly hard time deciphering what it was trying to me. They definitely could’ve improved there with a less confusing GUI.
Awakening sounds beautiful. Battle sound effects are crisp and don’t get too annoying. The big exception to that is the unit death jingle. Maybe I should’ve tried to keep my units alive more, but it definitely got grading during the final boss attempts. Awakening’s soundtracks is one of my favorites in general. I love every song here. The Smash remixes make them better too!
I really enjoyed my time with Fire Emblem: Awakening! It isn’t too big of a time investment. My experience clocked in at just over 13 hours. I never found myself feeling too inundated with difficulty or reliant on luck. Awakening was the starting point of millions for the Fire Emblem franchise. I think it makes an excellent one. Nintendo has started discounting it on the 3DS eShop during their sales. A physical copy of Awakening is outrageously expensive now. I just recommend getting it digitally. Avoid the trouble of tracking one down, and paying far too much.
The Fire Emblem franchise is well represented in Smash. One of the highest pure number of characters for any franchise, dozens of songs, a few stages, and tons of spirits. An argument is now commonly fought in the Smash community over having “too many swordsmen.” A different one is fought over “too many blue-haired swordsmen.” I don’t agree with either.
Lucina was the first character from Awakening revealed for Smash! She joined the roster in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS. Lucina serves as an echo fighter to Marth. She shares an identical moveset. Some fans complain about her inclusion to this day. I think Marth’s moveset does a good job at representing Lucina too. She was originally intended to simply be a costume for Marth. She was given a full slot due to the teams’ wish to make her a fair bit different. Dark Pit, and Doctor Mario, were given the same treatment. Still salty about Alph though.
Robin was revealed in the same trailer as Lucina for Smash for. He serves a very unique gimmick in Smash itself. He’s a mage with a limited use of magic. I’ve never been good at using Robin. I’ve genuinely never cared about learning all of the specifics. I can definitely appreciate those who do and the fact that they’re there. After looking at his moveset again in the context of completing Awakening, I cannot think of a single thing I would change about him.
Chrom joined the roster far later than the other two. In the original trailer, he had stated he’d “get [his] chance another day.” Few thought that statement would be literal. When Nintendo held the official Super Smash Bros. Fighter Ballot, many voted for Chrom and held their breath for his chance as a DLC fighter. Chrom didn’t join the roster until Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as Roy’s echo fighter. He was selected because of the demand he received during the ballot. Chrom has quite a few more differences from Roy than Lucina does Marth. Chrom takes the Aether recovery that Ike uses. Chrom can perform this move in Awakening, so using it in Smash isn’t out of the ordinary. I don’t have a complaint with Chrom’s moveset either.
I really like how the Awakening trio are represented in Smash. Due to Everyone is Here, some may think there’s a bit too much Fire Emblem. I can’t complain that much about it though. It’s easy to understand how little of this would actually have remained if they didn’t bring EVERYTHING back. I think the Smash community should ease on Fire Emblem a little bit. After all, history is written, there’s nothing anyone can do to get Corrin and Byleth patched out now.